Remuera Baptist Church

When The Following Gets Tough

Beyond Christianish









When following gets tough

Some Christian Myths:

  • God has a wonderful (a.k.a. pain-free) plan for my life.
  • God will protect me from suffering.
  • Suffering in a Christian’s life only happens if there is sin.


Building a Framework to Think About Suffering

… a place to start …

God has created us and our world in such a way as to allow and promote our love for Him. 

True love must be freely chosen … it cannot be forced.

True love is not conditional … not, “I will love you IF …”

This love is SEEN by the quality of FAITHFULNESS (fidelity, trusting obedience, faith).


… an understanding …

Therefore, our Faith/Faithfulness is of the highest value to God.

The very nation of Israel (the start of his Rescue Plan) was birthed in faith upon faith.

Jesus was constantly on the look-out for it …

…frequently disappointed (e.g., Mark 6:6)

…occasionally overjoyed (e.g., Luke 18:8)

…despairing(?) of finding it on his return (Luke 18:8)


… a surprising insight …

How does this kind of faith that God desires grow?

Not how we would think  … or wish …

Phillip Yancey – ‘Disappointment with God’ – Three questions that no-one dares ask aloud in times of pain.

  1. God, why are you so unfair?
  2. God, why are you so silent? 
  3. God, why are you so hidden?


Why Is God Unfair? 

Imagine a world designed so that we experience a mild jolt of pain with every sin and a tickle of pleasure with every act of virtue. The Old Testament records a ‘behaviour modification’ experiment almost that blatant -  God’s covenant with the Israelites. God resolves to reward and punish his people with strict, legislated fairness ... dependent on one condition that the Israelites had to follow the laws he laid down.

the outcome?


Why Is God Silent? 

Was there a time when God’s guidance was crystal clear? YES!

A cloud over the tabernacle that moved or stopped.

Urim and Thummim

613 Laws …

the outcome?


Why Is God Hidden? 

Was there a time when God’s presence and power were completely obvious? YES!

Crossing the Red Sea

Miraculous food and drink in the desert

A pillar of cloud … a pillar of fire

His presence blazing on a mountaintop

the outcome?


Both ‘God being Obvious’ and ‘God being Unobvious’ carries huge risks to God:

Being Obvious … yes, people would believe in him, but they would never grow up – never develop love expressed in faith.

Being Unobvious … the risk that people will choose not to exercise trusting faith to seek for him.


Jesus (as fully God) … chose an approach of hiddenness and restraint.

His teaching in parables was designed to ‘tease out’ faith in listeners. Parables filtered those with faith from those who had none.

At times he was reluctant to perform signs of power (e.g., Mark 8:11).

Even after the miracle of his resurrection … he only appeared to believers!


Jesus (as fully human) … chose the way of obedience, trust … faithfulness!

His temptation in the wilderness has been called a stupendous miracle of restraint! (Luke 4)

His testing in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mk 14)

His refusal to call down armies of angels while on the cross (Matt. 26:53)


In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:6–9


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